Supreme Court Champions Leave For Working Mothers of Special Needs Children

The Supreme Court of India has passed an order highlighting the provision of child care leave to women as an integral part of their constitutional entitlement to participate in the workforce. This order was passed by the Chief Justice along with Justice J.B. Pardiwala on April 22, 2024.

Facts of the case

The petitioner, Shalini Dharmani, is a government college professor in Himachal Pradesh. Ms. Dharmani has a 14-year-old son with a rare genetic disorder called Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI).

OI is a genetic bone disorder that is present at birth. It is also known as brittle bone disease. As a result of the condition, Ms. Dharmani’s son requires constant care and surgeries.

However, she had already exhausted her sanctioned leave caring for her son.

The Central Government allows Child Care Leave (CCL) for women with disabled children up to 22 years old for a period up to 2 years. This is in accordance with Rule 43-C of the Central Civil Service (Leave) Rules 1972. However, the Himachal Pradesh hasn’t adopted this provision and denied the petitioner CCL.

Furthermore, the Himachal Pradesh High Court dismissed her petition seeking a direction for the adoption of Rule 43-C of the CCS (Leave) Rules.

Supreme Court’s Decision

The Court emphasized women’s right to work as a constitutional entitlement protected by Articles 14, 15, 19, and 21.

“The participation of women in the work force is not a matter of privilege, but
a constitutional entitlement protected by Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the
Constitution; besides Article 19(1)(g). The State as a model employer cannot
be oblivious to the special concerns which arise in the case of women who
are part of the work force. “

Supreme Court Order in SLPC 16864/2021

CCL is crucial for women with disabled children to balance work and caregiving. While the State has policy discretion, such policies must be consistent with constitutional rights.

Supreme Court’s Orders
  1. Himachal Pradesh must reconsider granting CCL to mothers, especially those with children with special needs.
  2. A committee led by the Chief Secretary will explore all aspects of CCL for mothers with disabled children.
  3. The committee’s report with a policy decision must be submitted to the court by July 31, 2024.
  4. The petitioner’s application for special leave under Rule 32 of CCS (Leave) Rules should be approved while awaiting the committee’s report.
Further Considerations
  • The committee’s recommendations will determine the future of CCL for mothers with disabled children in Himachal Pradesh.
  • This case sets a precedent for other states that haven’t adopted the Central Government’s CCL provision.
  • The case highlights the need for work-life balance policies to support working mothers, particularly those with children requiring special care.